Responsibilty and co-responsibility

The young ones are lazy bums that need to be taught a lesson in gratitude! This seems to be an axiom many live by, and you frequently come across this type of attitude in the commentary field following a blog post written by someone with a disability for example. Incidentally, there is research suggesting that these trolls are seriously ill themselves (I might add gutless to the characterizations in Psychology Today)

In addition to these trolls I think many take it for granted that some young people refuse to work. In their minds there couldn’t be any other explanation. I don’t doubt that there are more people like the guy who wrote Confessions of a disability scammer in one of the major news papers a couple of years ago. His main point was that the only thing he wanted to do with his life was to write, and if society wouldn’t let him do it, he thought it was his right to passively receive money from The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (one thing many seem to ignore is that the benefits you receive will keep you alive, but it’ll be a limited life. It’s not something these envious people want to try). It sounded like he blamed the rest of us for his lack of motivation. However, there are many reasons why some don’t work, and they are not all appearent to outsiders. Some have been traumatized, a few by their biological parents, but a good deal by the Child Welfare Service (CWS) as well. There are also many other reasons why life is hard, and this is something we should think about when we just had World Mental Health Day.

The CWS should be about protecting children. If that was the only agenda they had, removing the children from relatives should be the last resort. I realize that sometimes it’s best to separate parents and children, because it would be a lie to claim that abuse never occured within families, but the CWS should look for good candidates for foster parents among relatives before they choose strangers. Just after I published the Norwegian version of this entry, media reported that there is a decreasing number of foster children that get to stay with relatives. It was 38,12 % in 2008 and two years ago it was down to 31,12 % (the figures for 2013 will be published in december). When the stateowned broadcatser NRK reported on this they also interviewed Amy Holtan, researcher and professor at the University of Tromsø. She confirms what I’ve read from other sources, children are better off living with relatives. That gives more stability.

It is at best difficult for strangers to have the necessary patience with children. It‘s not easy to invest the necessary time and resources in children that are not your own. This is only logical, but the problem is made worse by the fact that the system is organized as an industry. Bufetat (the state part of the CWS) pays substantial sums to foster parents and institutions, and there are rarely any consequences when these parents” do a poor job or even break the law. I wrote about a bufetat-institution in my home town a while back. This institution received national attention in 2009 due to the “torture case” where 5 teenagers under Bufetat custody had taken part in torturing a 16 year old, as well as being involvd in other cases of assault. When the county governor probed into CWS in Haugesund in 2014 they criticised the lack of transparency. Haugesund left children in the custody of this state-institution and didn’t do anything to follow them up. The county medical authority also expressed concern about the same institution because of violations of documentations and use of illegal force. In his opinion people working at this institution didn’t understand what constituted illegal force/violence.

I referred to a study about foster parents in State Sponsored child trafficking in Norway. The study from 2005 consists of a series of questions to foster parents in Hordaland county, and the answers they gave. The study revealed that 89% of foster parents felt that the foster children were to grow up with them, and only 5% thought the children would return to their parents.

Foster parents were also asked whether they had considered adopting the foster children they cared for. 78% had not considered it, and only 10% had considered it seriously. I don’t know whether this was entirely their own expectations, or whether the CWS had pointed them in that direction, but it suggests at least that they saw the arrangement as permanent, but without forming close ties to the foster children. They were only income.

These headlines alone from forskning.no (translates research.no) says a lot about how serious this is:

Traumatic childhood shortens life

Most children picked up unannounced

Better off with relatives

Half of foster children have mental disorders

sad teddy
There are cases where removing children from their parents care is the sensible thing to do, but it also happens when it isn’t necessary. That creates a lot of trauma.

Some of these articles are probably used against the biological parents, but the arguments are valid no matter who has custody. The reason why so many children are struggling, according to the last article, could be the  legislation and organization of the CWS. Researcher and specialist psychologist Stine Lehmann did the first survey of mental disorders in children in Norwegian foster care. There is reason to emphasize the word survey, because it seems like she is speculating. I’m not sure this deserves the label research. She thinks that physical and mental abuse prior to the children being removed from their parents is the biggest risk. There is no doubt that this happens in biological families as well, which is why I have said several times that we need the Child Welfare Services, but the present CWS is also a part of the problem. There is, for example. a lot of evidence of institutions not having adequate procedures for documentation, incompetent employees that are not aware of what is meant by illegal coercion, diagnoses from specialists in hospitals being ignored and necessary treatment terminated. There are also many cases where employees in the CWS seem to make decision in areas they don’t understand or like, such as poverty and minority cultures. There have also been cases where they have labeled a mother as mentally ill without consulting a doctor or psychologist about it. To put this short, the CWS is out of control.

I do however agree with Lehmann when she says that we must emphasize protection against neglect and abuse, but I don’t think the only focus should be malicious parents. The reason why the current system is dangerous is that there is too little transparency, and where there is little or no transparency, you find the best opportunity for abuse. The government has more than enough evidence of what is going on. Some politicians believe it would be better if the municipalities took over the whole CWS from the state. I think we’d still have the problem with transparency. After all, my hometown didn’t seem to learn anything from the mentioned “torture case.” Some attoerneys have even accused employees in the CWS of forgery. Because they don’t document properly they can easily change documents or create new ones to match their version.

Save the Children made a survey where they asked Child Welfare employees about their knowledge, skills and sense of responsibility in the trafficking of children. Only 14% of the 130 surveyed felt they had enough knowledge to deal with a case like that. 81% responded that they had no knowledge of procedures for the identification of children who were victims of trafficking. When they were asked whether or not it was their responsibility to ensure that these children received proper care-services, only 38 % said yes.

This has no direct connection to most child welfare cases in Norway, but I think this is a general trend. There are many employees in CWS that do a good job, but there are also problems concerning procedures, due process, expertise, training, responsibility etc. There is too much variation from one employee to another. This is, at best, weaknesses in the system, at worst dishonest and biased case workers. The government should be interested in straightening this out.

This is why I am so concerned about this matter. It’s all about helping the children and families who are affected, but it is a much larger issue. It may sound a little too grandiose, but I think it is also about what kind of society we want to live in. In a battle between good and evil, I can’t see how the present CWS is supporting the good side. This is what no one is talking about when Norway is basking in the glory after media has reported on the global index that ranks Norway as the best country in the world to live in. That is why I file these posts under Trouble in paradise. It is a good place to live, but there are snakes even here.

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